In August, Pope Francis sparked a sense of hope among some lay Catholics when he announced his “Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate”—a commission charged with analyzing the possibility of female deacons in the church. But three months later, Pope Francis drew a clear line—reaffirming the church’s official stance on ordaining women as priests, according to National Catholic Reporter.
Pope Francis rejected the possibility of female priests when answering a journalist’s question on his flight home from Sweden after participating in a ceremony celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The ceremony’s guest list included Archbishop Antje Jackelen, the female head of the Church of Sweden. But aboard the papal plane, Pope Francis responded affirmatively to a question about the Catholic church’s own stance on women’s ordination: “On the ordination of women in the Catholic church, the last word is clear. It was given by St. John Paul II and this remains.” The pope defended this stance by explaining that “women can do many things better than men,” and referring to women as the “feminine dimension of the church,” according to National Catholic Reporter.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows that 59 percent of Catholics believe that women should be ordained as priests. Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of Future Church and founder of Catholic Women, believes that women priests could offer a necessary balance for the church. “The kinds of things that women preach about are qualitatively different and touch us in ways that other topics don’t touch us,” Rose-Milavec told America magazine. “Once people begin to listen deeply to the wisdom and the words of these Catholic women preaching, it also will touch them in brand-new ways.”